We hoped for two comebacks, but had to settle for one.Â The Tampa Bay Rays managed to rally against the Texas Rangers to send their ALDS to a Game Four that will be broadcast live on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra from 18.00 this evening.Â The Minnesota Twins were swept by the Yankees.
Itâ€™s hard to imagine how demoralising this series defeat will be to the Twins.Â In previous years, they have always come into the postseason with an â€˜underdogâ€™ tag due to their relatively low payroll.Â That wasnâ€™t the case this year.Â The finance is there, as shown by the way they were able to tie Joe Mauer to the team for years to come, and the glorious new ballpark is in place.Â Many felt it was time to deliver.Â
It didnâ€™t happen and what stands out the most is the nervousness among some of their fans as the regular season came to a close and the Yankees loomed large.Â Reading blogs and tweets, there was an element within the Twinsâ€™ fanbase that was preparing for the worst before a pitch had been thrown.Â Itâ€™s a defence mechanism that any fan of a sports team will recognise (or at least fans who donâ€™t support a traditional superpower).Â Donâ€™t get your hopes up and then if the team does fail, you wonâ€™t be so disappointed.
The pessimism might seem justified when recent history is taken into account.Â As a report on the Twinsâ€™ official website notes, this is their third first-round sweep in a row and their fifth straight first-round exit since 2003.Â Four of those defeats have come at the hands of the Yankees, including nine straight losses.
We all like to look for storylines and the Yankees being the Twinsâ€™ bogey team is an obvious one to follow, but Iâ€™m not convinced that history had a bearing on this series in any psychological sense.
Every series lives on its own.Â Not all of the personnel are the same and circumstances are always different.Â The Twinsâ€™ top three guys in recent years have been Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan.Â The latter has been out all season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Morneau has missed most of the year due to the lingering side effects of a concussion and Mauer has been playing through various ailments most of the way.Â The Yankees have had their share of injury problems as well, but despite topping the $100m payroll mark, the Twins still donâ€™t have the strength in depth of their rivals to compensate for losing that level of talent when it matters the most.
Where do the Twins go from here?Â The obvious place to start has to be the rotation and a top pitcher to set the tone for the rest.Â They were one of the teams rumoured to be in the Cliff Lee trade deadline mix and undoubtedly he would have made a big difference.Â Lee will be available again this offseason as a free agent; however the smart money has him going to the Yankees (just to add to the Twinsâ€™ misery) and there are not many other free agent pitchers to get excited about after that (Ted Lilly is probably the next in line).Â That will likely make the Twinsâ€™ General Manager Bill Smith turn his attention to the trade market.
Yes, the seasonâ€™s far from over, but the Hot Stove talk is already underway.
Yankee celebrations again
Non-Yankee fans always root for the other team when theyâ€™re playing, but youâ€™ve got to give the Bronx Bombers a lot of credit.Â Never mind the money, the players still have to perform under intense pressure and win the games.Â Joe Girardi made a big decision in opting for Phil Hughes to pitch the third game and his pitcher completely justified the confidence shown in him with a commanding performance.
Are we heading towards another Phillies-Yankees World Series?Â You wouldnâ€™t bet against it.
Penaâ€™s pain ends as the Rays stay alive
The Raysâ€™ radio commentators on WDAE were getting a bit depressed in the early stages of last nightâ€™s game against the Rangers, not least with Carlos Penaâ€™s continued struggles.Â They were looking for one moment to get him back on track and thought they had it in the fourth inning when he hit a 3-1 fastball towards the right-field fence.Â Itâ€™s events like this that are perfect for radio commentary as you are left in suspense waiting to hear the outcome.
Unfortunately for the Rays, Penaâ€™s drive ended up in Nelson Cruzâ€™s glove.Â In one second, the joy of a possible three-run bomb and Pena finding some confidence was deflated.
That deflated feeling became a forgotten memory later on after Pena singled home Desmond Jennings to tie the game 2-2 in the eighth and padded the Raysâ€™ lead in the ninth with a two-run homer.Â If that’s a sign of Pena getting hot at the plate, this series could be heading back to the Trop after all.
As well as the Rays-Rangers game on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra, the Senior Circuit postseason resumes with the Braves hosting the Giants from 21.37 BST and the Phillies hosting the Reds from 01.07 a.m.Â Jonathan Sanchez and Tim Hudson will take the mound in the former game, while Cole Hamels has the chance to complete a series sweep for the Phillies against the Redsâ€™ Johnny â€˜King Fuâ€™ Cueto.Â All games will be shown live on ESPN America.